“I wanted a perfect ending…
Now, I’ve learned the hard way that some poems
don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear
beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing,
having to change, taking the moment and
making the best of it,without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious ambiguity.” Gilda Radner, 1946-1989
The braids in my hair were intertwined so tight that one strand would never unlink to unravel the whole. Every morning when I was in elementary school, the braiding of my hair was part of the morning ritual. In one hand I grasped the black comb, its teeth made small indents on the palm because I held it so tight, while the other hand held a glass of milk. I sat down on the floor and crossed my legs Indian style, while my Mother braided my hair. There were usually no words exchanged while she braided, the television did most of the conversing for us. As soon as she finished fastening the rubber band at the end of my braid, I grabbed my backpack and darted toward the door. My Mom walked with me on the sidewalk as I tried to step on every crack, counting each one before I reached the end of my street, Bosque Drive.
As I reflect on that memory today, I understand that in some way that walk to my elementary school became my point of reference and a reliable framework, my glance always fixated on that green Bosque Drive sign, a symbol of a beginning I didn’t understand until I was older. The ordinary filled my days, I woke up, went to school, played with my friends, ate dinner with my parents, harassed my little sister, and went to sleep. The same routine happened over and over again for so many years. The street sign always in my purview, no reason to interfere with this rhythm because it provided direction and happiness. There was a finite beginning and ending to my days because guidelines of my life was a task entrusted to my parents.
The thought of leaving that street, not visiting my childhood home on a regular basis became a source of discontent to me, especially when my husband and I decided to move to Arizona. The idea of living in a town, where everything was wholly unfamiliar, where I had no roots, where my parents or sister never lived, unravelled the braid I created in my head. I wouldn’t be walking on that sidewalk to my elementary school.
It’s the separating, the disengaging from the reality I held on to in my mind which unsettled me. Because in that unravelling lies ambiguity. My life, before moving to a new city, existed in beginnings and endings of milestones of any typical person’s life: childhood, college, marriage and having a baby. Now I’ve learned that in the unravelling, there isn’t a finite entry or exit, that there is a continuum. And the most important part of the living is done in the ambiguity. It’s what lies when the braid unravels and how you go on despite what you believe is a beginning or ending.
How do you feel about ambiguity? Does it bother you when you are not at a beginning or ending? What particular beginnings or endings are memorable for you or have made the most impact?
Hi Rudri, This made me think of how often people dream about hair—and how Marie Lousie Von-Franz, a Jungian analyst, suggests that hair is symbolic of the thoughts that grow spontaneously out of our heads. Thus the unraveling of the braids, the journeying into the unfamiliar, the venturing into the ambiguous seems, to me, the very start of individuation. It’s one of the reasons that travel is so truly transporting at the soul, as well, as mundane level—we really see things when we must find our way, we really appreciate things when see them for the first time. Sometimes I like to take a walk on my own block and purposely look for things I have never noticed—sometimes rather magical synchronicites unfold when we strive to see with child-mind. Namaste
Ambiguity scares the crap out of me. I blame the German part of my heritage. xo
I love your post. And can relate to a lot of it. Ambiguity can be quite unnerving , but the reality is that once you accept it, then life can show you its own mysterious routes. Its our obsession to over analyse everything and the need to be in control that creates the true panic. And the truth is no matter how much we obsessively plan, meticulously sorting out all the details, dotting all the is and crossing all the ts, fate has a quirky way, with a simple wave of her fingers, erasing all that. I think in those moments it helps to just allow god to move from the copilot’s seat to flying the plane…
congrats on your lovely blogs. You are blossoming into a lovely writer everyday. Hope to see you published soon!
Me too TKW, me too!!! I loved reading about your braiding memory…I was right there in the room with you.
I’m not very comfortable with the vague and ambiguous, but I like change and and am motivated by signs of progress – so that I’m usually somewhere after the beginning and nowhere near the end.
Loved reading about your memories of having your hair braided. For some reason I was reflecting on mine yesterday, too – of how my mother struggled to French braid my fine hair, and of my aunt doing wonders with fishtail braids, and of learning to do my own, hands behind my head, as a young teenager. Now I wish my hair were long enough to braid!
The image of your mother braiding your hair is beautiful, Rudri. I don’t remember it, but my mother often describes a similar scene when she used to finger curl my hair — though it wasn’t every morning. Both memories bring a lot of comfort to the one remembering.
As for ambiguity, I think I’ve always lived in it (as I examine it for the first time, actually). I suppose that’s why it’s hard for me to make a decision or know when things are final (or to see a window opening). Interesting concept!
What a beautiful essay, Rudri. “The most important living is done in the ambiguity.” You’re right, I think, because ambiguity causes so much introspection. But it is so hard, too.
This life! Ah!
Such a well crafted post – and so appropriate for me to read right now. Typically, ambiguity doesn’t bother me. I’m fairly laid back and accepting of the circumstances around me. But lately? I’ve been so overwhelmed and uneasy with all of the undone projects and uncertainty I’ve been drowning in recently – ok, not so recently. For the past 4 months. It’s been horrible. It’s been hard. And I crave the mundane and predictable – with every last thing – from housework to finances – complete and tidy and wrapped up in a pretty pink bow!
I have come to embrace and revere ambiguity. Life is not about black and white, stop and go, but about the cryptic swirl, the missing piece. As for beginnings and ends, I have been thinking about them a lot and I am realizing that beginnings are often ends and vice versa. It is all flux, change, evolution. This can be unsettling or very comforting depending on how you think about it.
Beautiful, rich post.
I’ve learned that so much of the living that we do lies in the ambiguous. There is no roadmap and there are no prescribed directions. There is choice; sometimes with many attractive options, other times with options that leave a lot to be desired. The defined edges of beginnings and endings bookend the softer, more malleable surfaces, where I find much of my waking hours are spent. Full of surprises and possibilities.
I don’t look at life that way. It’s an adventure. Holding onto the familiar becomes an excuse to not try something new. While it’s scary to move somewhere wholly different it’s also exciting. In my life, I say, “What will God do with me there?”
Ambiguity has always been unsettling for me.
Strangely enough I’m almost the exact opposite. Knowing what I will be doing in a year, in 10 years or 20 years from now (because it’s so similar to what I’m doing right now) scares the heck out of me. How dull life would be. Of course I like some of life’s basics to be there – a home, income, food on the table – but it is the possibilities of what lies ahead on life’s path that I find exciting. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it’s what keeps me happy.